Although the broad history of Russia’s Great War & Revolution has been told many times, one infrequently examined (but critical) aspect of that epic story concerns the plight of science and technology during Eurasia’s whirlwind of change. Anthony Heywood’s new study, Engineer of Revolutionary Russia: Iurii V. Lomonosov and the Railways sheds new light on this understudied chapter of Russia’s past through an examination of the life and work of one of the country’s most distinguished and controversial scientists and technicians.
An innovative railway engineer, key administrator, and occasional diplomat, Iurii Lomonosov fell from grace with the new Soviet state following his refusal to return to the USSR from an assignment in Germany (1923-1927). Thereafter, he traveled abroad in the United States and Europe where his professional activities included a research post at the California Institute of Technology, collaborative projects with the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Petr Kapitsa, and work for the British War Office during the Second World War.
In chronicling the fascinating story of Lomonosov’s travails, Engineer of Revolutionary Russia draws attention to a number of important themes in the history of Russian science and technology including the fate of the country’s scientific diaspora, the human dimensions of East-West technology transfer, and the ever-present tension between science, technology, and politics.
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